March 23, the fourth Tuesday in March, is the American Diabetes Association "Alert" to locate the millions of Americans with undiagnosed diabetes. The Alert is an annual, one-day call-to-action for people to find out if they are at risk for diabetes, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
"The Alert's goal is to raise the awareness that diabetes is serious and that you can have diabetes and not even know it," the nutritionist notes.
According to the ADA, 18.2 million Americans have diabetes, and about 151,000 young people under 20 years of age have diabetes.
Some people are more prone to get diabetes, Reames says, explaining, "These include people who have family members with diabetes, certain ethnic groups, including Native Americans, blacks, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islanders, and people with some other health problems, such as being overweight.
Diabetes is a serious, chronic (lifelong) disease. There is no cure for it yet.
"Because there is no cure, people with diabetes must learn to manage the disease and take care of themselves properly," Reames says.
People with diabetes either can’t make or properly use a hormone called, insulin. Without insulin, glucose (sugar) levels in the blood get very high, because the body can’t use the sugar from digested food for energy.
There are two major types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is a disease in which the body does not produce insulin, most often occurring in children and young adults. People with type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin by injection or pump to stay alive.
Type 2 results from the body’s inability to make enough, or properly use, insulin. It is the most common form of the disease, accounting for 90 percent to 95 percent of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is nearing epidemic proportions in both children and youth because of a greater prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyles. The warning signs of diabetes include frequent urination, thirst, hunger, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, irritability, slow healing of wounds or sores, tingling or numbness in hands or feet, dry skin, itching, blurry vision and high blood pressure.
People with type 2 diabetes often have no symptoms. In type 2 diabetes, blood sugar levels rise intermittently or so slowly that a person usually does not have symptoms and may have the disease for many years before diagnosis.
A recent study conducted at 27 research centers in the United States found that by adopting a moderate, consistent diet and exercise program, many people with one or more of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes can stop the disease before it becomes irreversible.
The study found that not only did changes in diet and physical activity prevent or delay the development of diabetes, diet changes and activity actually restored normal glucose levels in many people who had impaired glucose tolerance.
These findings support the recommendations given through the LSU AgCenter’s Diabetes Education Awareness Recommendations (DEAR) Program, Reames says.
For local information and educational programs in related areas of family and consumer sciences, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. Also, visit the Food and Health sectiion of the LSU AgCenter's Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/food_health/.
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/food_health/
Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329, or email@example.com